5 soft skills we get during university studies


In the midst of the university admission campaigns, a number of articles appeared on the web calling on enrollees not to join the student flow. The main arguments of the authors of this content refer to the fact that higher education is too concentrated on needless and dead "theories", but not the things that are useful in real life. The second thesis promoted by the “university detractors” is the question of age: they possess that young people at the age of 17 are not able to make fully informed choice realizing all their wishes and potential. Regarding the fact that higher education would determine the main profession, many people advise to make this choice during practical working in the desired field using the trial and error method.

I do not deny the fact that nowadays there is a tangle of problems in the system of higher education, including the discrepancy of the curriculum with the needs of time. And indeed, for many young men and women sitting on September 1 in the lecture theaters, the university will become a kind of "baby-sitter" for the next 4-6 years. And yes, many of them will use their own time irrationally in the coming years, giving their sponsoring parents an ideal excuse for their economic unemployment and laxity: "Well, my son/daughter is a student."

But unfortunately our labor market is not able to absorb and digest so much unskilled work force, which is formed every year from the high schools graduates. Staff-flow in public catering is not endless. In addition a person having just school education as a rule falls into a dead-end post, which does not supposeany career growth, unless some kind of protection is used. The so-called gap year, which allows a school graduate to travel, feel the taste of life and decide what to do next, is not financially approachable for every parents. And, consequently, most of the former schoolchildren will go "adrift" - to the university.

But what I want to say in defense of high-education and the "proven scenario" for the school graduates is that studying at the university contributes to the development of some "soft skills", which employers have recently started talking about as being in high demand. What are these skills?

1. Understanding
what "deadline" means

The old Soviet proverb “Between the exam sessions the student life is precious” is only partly true. Due to the introduction of the Bologna process, the number of “last receiving dates” during studying has greatly increased. Of course, before the main exam session there are traditional queues of debt-owners, but most of the student activities fit into the rigid schedules - colloquium task due to 10th, module test due to 20th, practical work due to 31th. If you do not meet the terms, there are sanctions like lowering the points for task. Any "adult" working life is a complete deadline, in whatever sphere a person would specialize. In science you have to follow conference submission deadlines, as accountant – the schedule of quarterly reports, in non-governmental organizations – the terms for project grant reports. Deadline is one of the best motivators in any activity, and the habit for such motivation is well-formed during the student years.

2. Ability to find
the information optimum

All of us realize the fact that the amount of information we can access nowadays is an endless deepness to sink in. Therefore, there is an extremely important ability - to find and process the right amount of data that will provide you a necessary level of competence to solve the problem. At this point, understanding the adequate information optimum saves time and efforts.

I should confess that in my first student years I did not sleep much at night - all because of being too nerdish. I tried to read and analyze almost all positions in the recommended literature list during studying for seminar. And that is not a good feature for a student. The ability to "stop in time" in cognition is also important. My more rational cohabitants spent more time sleeping (read - restoring the brain), realizing that for a colloquium it was sufficient to know a chapter from textbook (which contains general answers onthe main “fact” questions). For a seminar it was necessary to know the basis from textbook enriched with one or two articles on the problem.

If you are preparing for a personal report - it is better to take a monograph on the topic as a basis, supporting it with an alternative opinion outlined in some articles; and only for coursework or master thesis it is really necessary to drown in library. But by the third year of studying the lack of sleep became a good teacher even for me.And moreover – the retrospective analysis of university program, that allowed me to evaluate the potential information base and ultimately find the most effective.

3. Ability to find
your niche in the team

Of course, an academic group of students is not the same as a team of professionals working on some project. But after being graduated seven years ago I still remember that in my group Dimitry specialized in military history. If on the seminar there were some war-related questions we would collectively entrust the speech to Dimitry. Our mate Serge was a computer-geek. And that's why when we – humanities heads - had the subject of "cliometrics" (statistical methods in history), Serge was the one in charge. And Eugen was the "god of the map”. And when we had historical geography, and were supposed to work with a "mute" map without signs, then Eugen took the leading part, making the silent map to speak. What I want to say is that during university studies the student comes to clear understanding that there are various unique-featured people that differ not only emotionally but in their professional qualities. And the group gets the best results only when all mates can show themselves from their best sides, regardless of in-personal likes and dislikes. Team work, whatever you say.

4. Writing in
information/business style

A significant part of didactic exercises for students is aimed at briefly outlining something (the abstract for coursework, the synopsis of literature survey, the main existing approaches to solve the problem, the main significant results of research, etc.). You would tell me - so what? 99% of people copy! So they are mastering not the information style, but the art of text-compiling.

This is not quite true. First, not all tasks can be performed with thoughtless copypasting. For example - a report on lab or field practice.

Secondly, not all the teachers give up. Most of them would check for plagiarism, other ones give original and complicated tasks that have not “ready answers” on the Internet. Thirdly, even the most lazy and cheaty student would not try copypasting forever. There will always be something that makes such person passionate. From what I came across: people without any visible skills for scientific research wrote excellent researches on subjects like "Coats of arms of English football clubs" or "The image of the Middle Ages in computer games."

That is, even in those who resist the process, studying at the university wakes up the writing skills. Although, of course, not everyone can write as Remarque ...

5. Understanding the principles
of hierarchical structures functioning

Before the summer holidays, many students are coming to me as their curator to ask for recommendation letters for employers.

It is well-expected, as many of them are trying to find a part-time job for summer. This time, one of my students was applying to the press service of the organization, personnel officer of which I am familiar with. I became interested: why, in fact, people who are taking a student for an internship, require him/her with such a thing as a recommendation letter from university curator (the structure is private and is not related to the academic process in any part).

In fact, recommendation letter does not characterize the employee in any way. First of all, 70% of the information there is a complete formalism: who is this person, when did he/she commence studies, who am I to him/her and why do I have the right to characterize him/her. Secondly, for "chance-giving” reasons the characteristics are mostly positive, unless the student has real organizational or discipline problems.

So, on my question about reason of this procedure the HR-girl replied that she did not really care what would I write in the description. The main thing in this mission is to ensure the potential associatewould find the strength to ask me for such a recommendation. Furthermore, he/she has to get it signed by dean, registered in the dean's office and sealed in the student department. The real sense of this quest is to figure out the sequence of officials and overcome internal constraint.

After the years of such training, most university graduates have certain skills in working with official documents. And in the real work activity it is essentially important.


On this I would certainly finish my list. Of course, it is not exhaustive, but it clearly demonstrates that many "soft skills" formed in the university would allow the graduate to adapt to the constantly changing needs of the labor market. And since we do not know much about the professions of the future, that means we need the flexibility to meet them, studying in the university definitely makes sense.

Valeriia Lavrenko


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